Seven abandoned children die in orphanage fire


A fire at an unregistered home for orphans and abandoned children in central China has killed six children and one adult, according to a local official.

The blaze took place at a shelter in Lankao county, Henan province, yesterday.

Eight people, including a 20-year-old and seven children, were inside the two-room house when the fire broke out at about 8.30am, a spokesman with the county government told Xinhua news agency.

All eight were orphans or abandoned children. Four died at the scene, while another three died on the way to a local hospital, the spokesman said.

One child aged about 10 is receiving treatment at the hospital. The home is run by Yuan Lihai (48), a street seller who has taken in more than 100 abandoned babies over the past 25 years.

Ms Yuan is known as “the mother of hundreds” for her work with children, many of whom have disabilities or chronic illnesses.

She had hired workers to take care of 34 orphans and abandoned children – 21 boys and 13 girls – in two private houses in the county.

‘Unlawful’ adoptions

The Xinhua report said Ms Yuan’s adoptions were unlawful and authorities in Lankao county had helped a welfare centre in Kaifeng city take five children from her in September 2011.

China’s state orphanage system is badly underfunded and is unable to adequately provide shelter for many abandoned children, especially those born with physical or mental disabilities.

In a report on the China Smack website, Ms Yuan said she started to adopt abandoned babies in 1987 because of her love of children but, as word got around, babies were left outside her house and police officers and hospital personnel sent abandoned babies to her.

There have been questions about how she funds the orphanage and she has been accused of selling the children to couples. Ms Yuan said she had passed some children on to other willing adopters but it was without charge.

She said she got some aid from people she had helped and she earned money from other business ventures including a shop operated by her sister and a house that she rented out. She also receives donations from local people, including old clothes. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

Henan province is the same region where a man wielding a knife wounded 23 children at a school last month.